As you know, people always strive to a standard or some kind of a norm. That is why parents usually want their child be healthy and normal. If a kid is diagnosed with autism, parents and doctors aim at making the child more sociable, teach him or her to react to external stimulus and verbalize the needs.
As for the pathopsychologist Alexandra Popova, she goes even further. She is convinced that children with autistic thinking have extraordinary abilities.
“My aim is to discover, develop and preserve the gifts an autist has. Almost every ‘abnormal’ kid has some extraordinary gifts. If they are developed at the proper time, a kid may have a very bright future. Such famous people as Newton, Einstein, Mozart, Darwin, Mendeleyev, Socrates and Lewis Carroll suffered from various types of autism.
Autism may not be physiologically obvious. A complete physical and neurological evaluation will typically be part of diagnosing autism.
Newton experienced speech difficulties, one of the main autism symptoms. When he was 50, he went through a neural breakdown. Sometimes Newton forgot to eat or was found lecturing an empty room.
Einstein had another autism symptom. As a kid he had no friends and did not want to communicate with his age-mates. Moreover, sometimes he was obsessively repeating the same words. Einstein was a very bad pupil and left school when he was only 15. In spite of the hostility of the teaching staff he managed to graduate from the polytechnic institute. Then he started working in a patent agency. He was a regular clerk there. One day he created the relativity theory.
It took Alexandra Popova 15 year to work out her personal methods. Step by step she was studying the world of autistic children, she made contacts with Belarusian and foreign doctors, consulted families from Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Holland that faced this problem.
Alexandra has been actively supported by parents of autistic children. This year the Belarusian government has provided Alexandra with premises to house her clinic. She expanded the staff: hired a nurse, a speech therapist and a psychologist. Besides, Alexandra’s daughter Anna helps her to treat small patients. Every half-year Popova’s patients are examined by external doctors and teachers that are usually surprised by the results of her work.
Alexandra Popova works close with the Belarusian Association of Assistance to Handicapped Children and Young Disabled People. Besides, Alexandra cooperates with other specialists from non-CIS countries. In November a group of specialists from Holland is expected to come to Belarus to study Alexandra’s methods. They are interested in her approaches to teaching of autistic children and are ready to invest in further development of her methods.
First there was …
Alexandra’s life has never been a smooth and an easy path. She survived after four minutes of apparent death, lost two children and lived through a severe illness of her daughter Anna. The girl was keeping her bed for almost a year. Before all these grave events Alexandra graduated from the teachers institute in the city of Yaroslavl with her major lying in defectology and surdopedagogics. Besides, she finished the classes of massage, emergency medical treatment and obstetrics. All this knowledge helped to cure her daughter.
“After horrible events like that a person values quite simple things, like an ability to breath, enjoy the sun, take a walk…,” Alexandra says.
Alexandra invited kids to keep company of her daughter when she was ill. Children with infantile cerebral paralysis, autism and other psychophysical disorders came to be Anna’s guests. Gradually, little friends became patients of Alexandra…
In such a way Alexandra became a pathopsychologist.
“Psycho comes from psyche, or soul, patho means disorder. I am engaged in something between psychology and psychiatrics,” she says..
Alexandra believes autistic kids are like birds. They are beautiful and helpless.
“These children are not ill. They are just different. I believe that autism is a peculiarity of a personality. I am grateful to these children because they let me in their intricate world. When I only started to work with these kids, I thought, why should we cure geniuses and make them like us?” adds Alexandra.
Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder which manifests itself in markedly abnormal social interaction, communication ability, patterns of interests, and patterns of behavior. Many researchers suspect that autism results from genetically mediated vulnerabilities to environmental triggers.
Do you remember a kiss of the Snow Queen from the fairy tale written by Christian Andersen? After that kiss a boy called Kai was bewitched and forgot his relatives. His only occupation was to sit alone and play with small pieces of ice. One remembers about Kai when looks into estranged eyes of autistic kids.
A boy diagnosed with autism, called Nikita, is the main success of Alexandra’s methods. She says that Nikita encourages her in further work. They have been practicing for six years already. Nikita started speaking, he shows remarkable mathematical skills. What is more, he is visiting a comprehensive school together with normal children. He has improved his social skills, communicated with class mates and has friends in school. Nikita comes to Alexandra every day to do homework and help her with treating other children.
“Senya, say ‘it’s a ball’. I know, it is difficult, but please, do!” very softly, with Alexandra’s intonation, Nikita utters to a little boy.
The boy babbles: “Ball.”
“An extraordinary kid in the family is a chance to live a wonderful bright life,” says Alexandra. She knows it for sure.
by Diana Balyko